Odense in Denmark is the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen. And for one kindergarten in the city, fairytales really do come true. Their playground has been transformed into an area of adventure - featuring volcanoes, islands and shark-infested waters!
The Toppen kindergarten teaches over 60 children between the ages of zero and six years old. Part of the outside play area was soil and it was very prone to flooding when it rained. So, in 2009, a very determined representative from the Parents' Committee, parent Helle Jensen, decided something had to be done. At the time the municipality of Odense was offering grants for ‘Playgrounds of the Future' so Helle applied on behalf of Toppen kindergarten, describing their wishes. She was successful and the money was secured.
Playtop licensee, Insemo, supplied an innovative design that incorporated volcanic islands, sea and animals. To give the area even greater play value, Insemo included mounds and spheres.
The new games and ways of playing that the children have adopted have surprised and pleased the teachers. Elsebeth Christensen, head teacher of Toppen, explains; "The children now have a fantastic and soft surface to move around on and we find that they literally move in a different way - or rather that the surface encourages the children in different and more active play behaviour: they roll around, run and climb...and sometimes they just lie down with their handsunder their chin enjoying and watching all that goes on. The children are making contact with the surface and integrating it as part of their play.
"In between the volcanoes, where the river runs through, the children have invented a new game called ‘Shark'. It's about crossing the water without being caught by the shark and is very popular with all the children regardless of their age."
The 370 square metres of play area also includes a small kick-about area and educational graphics such as a clock and a hopscotch grid. The clock doubles up as a score board. Every time there is a goal the scorer has to go and touch the number on the clock that represents the number of goals their team has scored.
Elsebeth Christensen is thrilled with the new play area; "Part of our outside area for kindergarten children was dusty when dry and muddy when wet. An ambitious partnership between children, leaders and parents has now resulted in an innovative Playtop playground approved by the municipality of Odense as a ‘Playground of the Future'.
"The Playtop playground fulfills all of our dreams and expectations and the children are very, very happy with the result. It feels like a new world of play and all the possibilities and challenges that this innovative playground offers are fully embraced by the children."
Crucial to the proposal and to Insemo winning the work was the fact that Playtop is made from recycled materials - something high on the agenda in Denmark, partly as it was about to play host to the Conference on Climate Change.
"We found Playtop wet-pour surfacing to be the perfect product for realising our dream of a new and unique playground." confirms Helle Jensen; "The product gave us unlimited possibilities for the creation of play areas and furthermore the product is manufactured with respect for the environment. The cooperation from Playtop and Insemo has been characterised by great enthusiasm and extreme professionalism, and we have had all the support we could have possibly asked for."
The official opening of the playground was attended by over 100 children, parents, teachers and local dignitaries.
So...Hans Christian Andersen's Ugly Duckling isn't the only story where something less appealing becomes something simply stunning!